They need not go away; you give them something to eat.
Two weeks ago I posted a short reflection on Matthew 14, where Jesus feeds the five thousand. At that time I was most struck by the huge demand Jesus placed on his disciples, rowing across lakes and ministering to the sick and giving out food. I lamented that these feats seem impossible because of my own lack of faith.
Today we continued to reflect on this passage using the Ignatian practices of meditating on the Scriptures. Again, I found myself in the story as one of the disciples. I felt sympathy and confusion to hear of John the Baptist’s death: What could he have done to deserve beheading? What about his followers? What about us, as Jesus’ followers?
Yet these thoughts are hurried away at the sight of the needy crowds. Perhaps it would have been the young men who greeted us, those who could hurry around the lake in time for us to arrive. I am awestruck as Jesus boldly preaches and heals the sick, unashamed of his mission even at this dangerous time. I love seeing Jesus work, aiding him and aiding others.
The sun begins to decline and someone mentions that the crowds ought to go from this desolate place to find food.
Again I hear him ask me to feed them. Yet this time I am not hot with anger.
No, my stomach sinks with embarrassment: I have nothing to give! I anticipate his disappointment.
Yet it is not so with Jesus.
And my heart warms. He accepts my offering.
Because my offering is not for others, it is for him. And with it, he is able to do far more.
He asked me to feed the people. Yet he provides the food.
I was struck in hearing this passage for the third time, how Jesus did not depend on my faith or my level of trust or how much I believed he could do. He asked and I obeyed to the best of my ability. This is true faith. It is not perfection, but it is enough for Jesus.
That makes all the difference for me.